Coming up with a connection between our legendary Presidents, to honor them on this day, and telecom, was a tough slog until I came across the efforts of a former FCC Chairman. Thomas Wheeler was named the thirty-first Chairman of the FCC in 2013, appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate. He’s a former CEO of CTIA and is a member of the Wireless Hall of Fame. He is also an unabashed history buff and author, writing a book entitled: “Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: The Untold Story of How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War” (HarperCollins).
“When you stop and think about it, Lincoln was the first ‘online president,’” Wheeler told Inside Towers. When Lincoln arrived for his inauguration in 1861, he said, there was not even a telegraph line to the War Department much less the White House. When the U.S. Army wanted to send a telegram they did like everyone else: sending a clerk with a hand written message to stand in line at Washington’s central telegraph office. That unwieldy situation changed rapidly, however, as wires were strung to the War Department and other key installations. The White House, however, remained without any outside connection.
Lincoln telegraphed a colonel in the field in real-time, as we would say today, during the Civil War Battle of Second Manassas (Bull Run) in 1862 asking: “What became of our forces which held the bridge till twenty minutes ago…?”
“He was using the new medium of electronic communications in an unprecedented manner to revolutionize the nature of national leadership,” Wheeler said.
Having researched Lincoln’s 1,000 telegraphed communques to his commanders in the field, Wheeler said one gets a picture of the man as he operated in his world and a glimpse at his steadfast stewardship of this country at our most fractured point in history.
“Hold on with a bull-dog grip, and chew and choke, as much as possible,” he wired Grant at one crucial juncture in the war. Wheeler wrote: “As he put down the President’s telegram, Grant laughed out loud and exclaimed to those around him, “The President has more nerve than any of his advisers.”
“What is most remarkable,” Wheeler said, “is that Abraham Lincoln applied the new telegraph technology in an absence of precedent. Without the guidance of text, tutor, or training, Lincoln instinctively discerned the transformational nature of the new technology and applied its dots and dashes as an essential tool for winning the Civil War.”
Tom Wheeler’s book can be purchased here on Amazon.com
By Jim Fryer, Managing Editor, Inside Towers
The post How Lincoln Embraced New Technology and Saved the Nation appeared first on Inside Towers.